The purpose of skiing is fun. While three-year-olds like to have fun, you can exert a great of energy assuring fun. Since the child will learn most easily when having fun, the more options for fun you have available the better. When you have fun, the child has fun. When you run into obstacles, think about the fun factor.
You are in charge of the tone of the lesson. When you are prepared to have something fun at hand, you can continue to keep the tone fun. Since children are distracted easily and may have short attention spans, have plenty of diversions in mind. You can use the ideas below as a springboard to add more of your own. You will find some favorites that are more effective than others.
Fun can be as simple as just enjoying the mountain scenery. Spice up the moment with a different tone of voice, by singing a song, or changing your pace. Simple songs at the child’s level can do the trick. Examples are You Are My Sunshine, If You’re Happy and You Know It, and old camp songs you remember. Often a song that is new will catch their attention. If the song is familiar to both of you, you can sing together. I use this on the chair ride.
Distractions can also lead back to fun if your little one’s positive attitude has strayed. “Oh, look!” will often get their attention. “Look at that mountain with all the snow”, “There is another child skiing.” Children often like to see other children. When pointing out kids, I look for the little skiers who are happy and successful.
Telling your child what you are going to do next can be reassuring at the beginning. That reassurance can allow the child a sense of control. You may say, “we are walking to the chair and then we are going to get on”. Just the next step or two will typically do. Once you are skiing down the slope, the child will pick up the agenda. Up on the chair, get off, turns each direction, then back up the chair.
When a child’s mood starts to become negative, mention something you like. “I am happy the sun is shining today.” “I am happy it is snowing so we have fresh snow to ski on.” “I am excited we are here at the mountain together.” Positive begets positive.
If the child shares something, open your imagination to a follow up. “Are there bears in the woods?” You may respond “Would you like to find bears in the woods?” This is a time to think of the notion in improvisational theater–move the story forward by playing along with whatever line the child says to you. Move the story forward rather than ending it with simple positive or negative answers. Children love imagination and stories. I use this to further engage the child.
I have a trilling sound that I use to attract children’s attention and to let them know where I am. This also works when their attentions wander off. The sound is pleasant and provides a creative way to communicate.
Fun can be whatever you and your child make it. Allow space for creativity. Be open and look for fun. Notice what is going on for the child and respond accordingly. Remember, learning to ski is supposed to be fun!
Caron MacLane, a level three certified ski instructor, has fun teaching all ages at Crystal Mountain. The youngest child she has taught to turn a ski is 18 months, the oldest just turned a senior citizen. A three-year-old she taught was racing and winning when he was six. Her happy clients include parents who say their children ski much better with Caron than those same children ski with their parents. In addition to teaching skiing, Caron is a personal coach. She integrates coaching on the slopes for people to learn life lessons on the snow. Watch for her upcoming book, How to Teach Your 3-Year-Old to Ski: A Guide to Low-Stress Family Fun on the Slopes. You can find out more at www.CaronCircleCC.com.